Jolie Nguyen says she’s little.
The running world may see her quite differently. Running in her first high school cross country meet, Nguyen was a big hit. She posted the best girls time — varsity or junior varsity — 13 minutes, 28 seconds on the two-mile course at Mid-Pacific Institute on Saturday afternoon.
Nguyen is only a freshman. She completed the hill-loaded course in the JV girls race. Another Raider freshman, Jaymie Frith, crossed the finish line in 13:54.7. The top time in the girls varsity run was by ‘Iolani senior Myndee Dyer (13:54.8).
“This is my first (high school) meet and it feels really good,” Nguyen said. “Running calms me down. For this meet, I had a lot of adrenaline because I knew this is the real thing. They’re timing you, just go for it.”
MPI’s Parker Wagnild, a junior, led the boys varsity race — also two miles — with a time of 10:50. ‘Iolani freshman Devin Pang (11:03) placed second, followed by ‘Iolani senior Joshua Lerner (11:13). In fact, after Wagnild, the next six positions were filled by Raiders.
With high school sports cancelled in public-school leagues since March of 2020, the Interscholastic League of Honolulu has moved forward this winter with some of its winter sports, particularly the ones labeled “lower risk” by COVID-19 restriction standards. That hasn’t altered training, however, as most ILH schools are competing in regular-season matchups on campuses.
Nguyen’s preparation was meticulous, even down to her caloric choices.
“I think leading up to today, I was preparing myself, making sure I ate well so I could feel great,” she said. “I feel like I did my best. I try to go for starts, get my carbs in. For dinner (on Friday), I had a bunch of pasta and loaded up my vegetables so I wasn’t sore today. Breakfast, I ate this whole oat cereal and fruits, and for lunch, just plain boiled pasta and a few sprinkles of salt.”
Until now, her main focus is on tennis, her first love. It will remain so, she said, in the spring when high school tennis season is official — fingers crossed — and she will likely turn down a chance to run long-distance for the Raiders.
The format, of course, is different in this COVID-19 altered school year. ‘Iolani arrived at the course first, ran its intermediate, JV and varsity teams. Then the Raiders cleared out before Mid-Pacific took the course and did the same. The days of combined runners are long gone.
MPI’s terrain was far from the flat routes of many cross country routes on Oahu.
“It was two laps. There’s a lot of hills, more like four to five smaller ones. But near the finish line, at the end of the second lap, it’s a gradual incline, and it gets steeper as you go up,” she said.
Nguyen’s running experience came with the track and field team while she was in middle school. Running was a part of conditioning for tennis.
“I did 1,500 and 3,000 (meters) last year. I trained on the track with my coach for two hours every day. Sprints, cool downs. Whenever I would be by myself and go run, I was better at pacing myself instead of (sprinting) a short distance.”
If Nguyen considers doing tennis and track during the spring, she will count on her family’s input.
“I honestly don’t know if I’m going to run long distance (track). We’ll see. It’s good to have my family there to give me input whether I’m doing well or not,” she said.